Heavenly tourism or the Kingdom

Heaven dominated last year’s Christian bestseller list. There were at least three heavenly visitation books until one young author stepped forward to confess his whole account had been fabricated. Many were duped not just by an unscrupulous author, but by an unbiblical over-emphasis on a distant place we think of as “our heavenly home.”

The great tragedy, of course, is that Heaven continues to eclipse the Kingdom.  As real as it is, Jesus never once instructed us to seek Heaven above everything else.  Nor did he use heaven as a hook for evangelism. “Follow me, Peter, and you’ll go to heaven when you die.”  And neither did he teach us to pray, “May we come into Heaven where your will will be done…” No… His plan has always involved the heavenly-earthly Kingdom of God; the marriage of heaven and earth, and the very makeover of the world and everything in it.

The idea of spending eternity in Heaven often embraces the unbiblical notion of our disembodied spirits worshipping forever in that translucent realm.  We forget that the resurrection means these earthly bodies will live again in a made-over and improved form! Whatever the unfallen Adam was, we will be. Whatever the resurrected Jesus is, we will be!  God’s dream has never been to whisk us away to heaven, but to so transform His creation that “the glory of the Lord will once again cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14) From the moment of Adam’s transgression, the Father, Son and Spirit has been at work undoing the catastrophic affects of the fall.

I was so encouraged last week to read that Lifeway Christian Bookstores have pulled all of the “Heavenly tourism” books from their inventory. This is a great step forward.   Now maybe we can get on undistracted with the work of seeing God’s Kingdom come “on earth as it is in Heaven.”


Addendum:  Below is a Google “nGram” plotting the comparative  number of books published about various topics. The red line is Heaven, and the blue line is The Kingdom of God.  Note how thoroughly Heaven overshadows the Kingdom.

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10 thoughts on “Heavenly tourism or the Kingdom”

  1. I agree, though I would add that hearing about my dad’s and a friend’s encounter with heaven did not distract me from my purpose here, but made everything about my time here become “more real and relevant.” I suppose it depends on the person and their understanding of God in determining what they take away from ‘heaven’ books. And of course, it also depends on if the book is a scam, a marketing ploy, or a person sharing a profound experience that they hope will point people to God. Unfortunately we have way too many of the first two types, and a minimal number of the third type.

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    1. Good observation, Melinda. I believe there is genuine comfort in these heavenly visions and experiences. The problem only arises when church culture is distracted by them and gravitates towards heaven instead of the Kingdom.

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  2. Sometimes folks forget, in their spiritual exhaustion and hunger for heaven, that earth was designed and created for God’s headquarters, the center of His kingdom. Heaven is wonderful, but these days I tend to think of it more as a staging ground, not an eternal habitat for human beings. The kingdom is here and now, although of course new heavens AND new earth are coming.

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  3. Oh Don! How dare you attack such cherished beliefs? Boy are you in trouble. You mean I should not follow Jesus because he promises me eternity in Heaven? And here I’ve been spending so much time focusing on my life after death. Guess I need to pay a little more attention to what’s happening around me. You may be on to something about this Kingdom thing.

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  4. What is the attraction of heaven? No pain, no tears, no suffering. Our society shuns these things. Heaven can be seen as the great opiate for the pew sitting believer. It can be the drug of choice (i.e. alcohol, drugs, sex, food, work, etc.). I can see someone using this future paradise to numb the pain of this life. Like any other addiction, however, it will prevent them from experiencing, in full measure, the pleasures of the Kingdom. Living in the Kingdom for me is becoming an ever increasing awareness of the Father loving me, Jesus walking with me, and the Holy Spirit living in me! Leaving the chains of my addiction behind, I am free to live, I am free to be the man God made me to be, I am free to show the love with which He loved me, I am free to be the joint heir with Christ that I am. I am a prince in the Kingdom of God. Who will you decide to be today?

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